The first time I came across Mohsin Ikram's photo on the Internet, I was nearly convinced it was another Jay Leno car restoration story, but then you read and you know Mr Ikram has been doing some great work in Pakistan. The country is preoccupied with a tonne of other matters, but when Ikram saw a Mercedes and a Cadillac that once belonged to the Jinnah family in a derelict condition, he was convinced the two should be a matter of national interest and got to work.
From when he first found out about the 1955 Cadillac Series 62 Convertible and 1967 Mercedes Benz 200 to finally restoring them, it took Ikram about 25 years.
Besides the fact that the Caddy and Merc are gold to a classic car enthusiast, what makes these two cars special is that they belonged to the sister of Pakistan's founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah. A respected figure for her role in the country's formation, Fatimah Jinnah died in 1967 after which the cars were stored at the Jinnah residence in Karachi.
Ikram first saw the cars at the disused Jinnah residence in 1992 where they remained in reasonable condition. However, the fate of the cars took a tumble when the Jinnah Trust sold the house to the government so it could be restored and turned into a museum.
This is when the garage was razed and the cars were left under the sky, exposed to the elements that include temperatures that shoot to 48°C in summer season and heavy rains during monsoon. The house restoration workers, not knowing the worth of the cars, sat on them, climbed on them, ate on them, and then there those who stole parts. All four wheels were stolen, so the cars were dragged and left closer to the sea - the sea that corrodes metal.
Ikram, more and more concerned about the cars' fate and potential doom, wrote letters to the government to which came no response which brewed up a storm in the local media. It took years, but Ikram was asked to submit an estimate for the restoration even though he offered to restore them at his own cost.
Another set of years went by before tenders were invited for the restoration job. Ikram's was the only one.
It then took him under two years between 2016-18 to carry out the epic restoration. Pakistan does not have a car restoration industry and a lot of the parts like wheels, convertible hood, etc were sourced through the Internet. Although considering what the end result looks like, I'd say that the technicians and craftsmen knew what they were doing.
Some ageing has been left behind on the panels and bumpers that stand to testify that they're original cars once driven by Jinnah. They are now at what is now Quaid-i-Azam House Museum on permanent display - a venue they were driven to on their own power. Ikram will continue to maintain the two.